The Leroy Jethro Gibbs & Director Leon Vance Actors Go Way Back (Yes, Further Than NCIS)


NCIS actors Mark Harmon (Leroy Jethro Gibbs) and Rocky Carroll (Leon Vance) go way back, even further than their extended time together in the cast of NCIS. Mark Harmon has appeared as Jethro Gibbs since NCIS originated as a backdoor pilot on the legal drama JAG. Rocky Carroll joined the show as NCIS Director Leon Vance a little while later in NCIS season 5, making him the show’s longest-standing NCIS director. While both actors have a track record as mainstays on the show for nearly two decades, respectively, their familiarity with each other predates the police procedural.

Both actors remain paramount to NCIS. Rocky Carroll will return to the NCIS universe in the main series as it airs NCIS season 22. His character was central to events in the NCIS season 21 finale. Mark Harmon will return for a separate project, playing a vital role in an upcoming spinoff. While new series and existing spinoffs inevitably draw attention to new actors and characters, Jethro Gibbs and Leon Vance have stood in the vortex of all that’s unraveling. Even more impressive is that the history between these two actors predates their NCIS legacies.

Mark Harmon & Rocky Carroll Both Appeared In Chicago Hope
Chicago Hope Aired For Six Seasons From 1994 To 2000

Mark Harmon and Rocky Carroll both appeared in the late ’90s medical drama Chicago Hope before they were cast in NCIS. The actors have a similar track record in the medical series, appearing in 95 and 96 episodes, respectively, between 1996 and 2000. The series centered around the professional and personal lives of the hospital staff at Chicago Hope Hospital. The series comprised an outstanding cast, including Mandy Patinkin as Dr. Jeffrey Geiger. Mark Harmon portrayed Dr. Jack McNeil, an orthopedic surgeon, and Rocky Carroll portrayed emergency room physician Dr. Keith Wilkes.

In the series, Harmon’s Dr. McNeil has the same no-nonsense attitude as Leroy Jethro Gibbs. He is one of the series’ more headstrong doctors. He often commands a situation by instructing those around him to help save lives and is known to take his work seriously. Rocky Carroll’s Dr. Keith Wilkes is more mild-mannered and doesn’t have nearly the same leadership prowess as he does in NCIS. That said, Harmon’s role in Chicago Hope was a precursor to his character on NCIS, whereas Carroll’s role in the police drama was more of an evolution from the medical drama.

Mark Harmon & Rocky Carroll’s NCIS Characters Are Competing For A Franchise Record
Jethro Gibbs & Leon Vance Are The Top Competitors For The Franchise’s Most Expansive Character

The actor’s futures are just as entangled as their pasts. Mark Harmon and Rocky Carroll are the two major players in the competition for who has made the most appearances in the NCIS franchise. Rocky Carroll’s Leon Vance has been featured in four NCIS series, including his 17-season stay on the original show. He also appeared as the NCIS Director in NCIS: Los Angeles, NCIS: New Orleans, and NCIS: Hawai’i. Carroll’s character is expected to be omnipresent in the franchise, since Vance oversees all the NCIS offices as the agency’s director and is responsible for supervising each NCIS team.


Harmon also has an impressive presence in the NCIS franchise. Harmon’s Jethro Gibbs appeared in NCIS, NCIS: New Orleans, and JAG as the Special Agent in Charge at NCIS Headquarters. Harmon’s appearances on many NCIS shows understate that Mark Harmon is synonymous with NCIS. His character is not as essential to the narrative as Rocky Carroll’s but appears throughout the franchise regardless. Gibbs will return to NCIS in the NCIS: Origins spinoff, making Gibbs’ reach in the franchise as extensive as Vance’s. Both characters can expand their legacies in the future.

Mark Harmon & Rocky Carroll Have Different Futures In The NCIS Franchise
Harmon Will Return To NCIS: Origins And Carroll Will Appear In NCIS Season 22

Two decades after the original NCIS show kicked off, both actors remain central to NCIS. Mark Harmon will finally return to the franchise after his departure in NCIS season 19 to executive produce NCIS: Origins, though he won’t be part of the NCIS: Origins cast. The expansion spinoff will explore the backstory of Harmon’s central NCIS character, winding back the clock to the 1990s when Gibbs was just getting started at the NCIS Camp Pendleton office. Harmon will have a hand in production as executive producer and narrate the series in a similar format to Jim Parsons’ narration of Young Sheldon.

Rocky Carroll will return for NCIS season 22 as NCIS director, solidifying his character’s central role in the ever-expanding NCIS universe. Although Vance’s NCIS director role is shrinking because of the cancelation of location-based spinoffs that could otherwise feature his character, Carroll’s role remains vital to the core NCIS narrative. Carroll will likely make his first appearance in NCIS: Sydney, the remaining location-centered spinoff since the series opted not to feature him in season 1. Director Vance could also appear in NCIS: Tony & Ziva, since he previously worked with both agents and could provide support.

While Chicago Hope would eventually succumb to the competition from ER, NCIS would go on to redefine the police procedural genre

While their characters have an extensive history on NCIS, Harmon and Carroll’s history predates that. Mark Harmon and Rocky Carroll appeared as doctors in Chicago Hope in the late ’90s, and the actors’ connection from the show would reunite them on NCIS. They would dominate not just the original series but the entire NCIS franchise. While Chicago Hope would eventually succumb to the competition from ER after six seasons, NCIS would go on to redefine the police procedural genre on CBS. Both performers have been at the center of the franchise’s success.